Just after finishing my Engineering in 1990, I felt comfortably vacant and lost. Talking to more than a few achievers, seers and octogenarians, it emerged that after all the wisdom they had, none truly knew whether the lifedecisions they took were correct. They were as vacant and lost as I was; ergo, my comfort.
My quandary was simple yet profound, What should I do? Being born between two siblings with makings of specialists, my older sister a microbiologist and the younger, a budding theatre artist, made my dilemma only tougher.
Much as I tried, I could not focus on any one direction though I knew with clarity what I did not want to do. Seeing my engineering classmates getting sucked into an ever-tightening career trap, scrambling for a job was first on my Not-To-Do list. After I put down enough on this list, I decided to go into business; though I knew very little about businesses or how they were run. It was here that the seeds of my entrepreneurial journey were unassumingly sown.
When you don’t know what business you’re going to start, finding the right idea can be quite a task. I started off with trading in chemicals, and subsequently ran successful businesses in stockbroking, banking and exports, till I came upon communication and brands - a business that would consume me obsessively for the next two decades.
Since 1998, I have been a professional in brand strategy and communication, still as eager and inquisitive as I was when starting out. The past decade of my career may be termed successful, having promoted six different companies under the Comniscient Group umbrella. If I attempt to decipher the reasons behind this success, I realize that it was not because I knew a lot; in fact it was because I knew too little to start with.
Around 2008, I started a lecture series on the subject titled ‘Communication 101: Foundation Science’. Everyone was welcome. Serendipity came in the form of questions and perspectives that hundreds of students, clients, colleagues and peers put forth and it took the shape of a book titled ‘Decoding Communication’ which got published in 2010. This book also became the seed for a completely new way to look at the brand, and a brand model called ‘Buying Propensity’ emerged, one that would only focus on the consumer’s keenness to buy. Writing this book was a more a process of self-discovery, but it also led to discoveries of the intricate Brand Trust Matrix and Brand Attractiveness models, which seemed to me like my Mona Lisa, painted in 97 hues of different intangible attributes.
It was very interesting, as most of the metrics for a brand revolved around sales or valuation, and there existed no means or ways to measure the relationship quotient that the brand had with its consumers. The Brand Trust and Brand Attractiveness models filled this gap.
Any new paradigm faces resistances. We were confronted with resistances of doubt (what if the Buying Propensity model does not work), inertia (we are using the old model for so long), and wrongly placed risk-appetite (placing their bets on the past models rather than future models). With patience and perseverance, we were able to get brands to align themselves to the Buying Propensity Model. To see TRA’s brand models adopted by hundreds of brands as their singular brand metric today makes the backbreaking mountain climb to this point well worth it.
To get to this point has not been easy. But if it were easy, it may not have been as satisfying. I personally consider failure so intrinsic to success that I advise all to not shun it, but instead embrace it fully, accept and learn from it. Within every chaos, there is a seed of opportunity and within the heart of every failure is a success waiting to be born.